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Darren Hambrick lands in Cleveland

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 13, 2002

DADE CITY -- Darren Hambrick's long offseason finally ended Sunday when the former Pasco standout signed a one-year contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hambrick, who had gone unsigned into the first week of preseason games, was signed after Cleveland's starting strong-side linebacker, Jamir Miller, was lost for the season after tearing an Achilles' tendon in a game Saturday night.

"Darren was a starting (strong-side) linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys a couple of years ago," Browns coach Butch Davis told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "He's a very fast, athletic guy and he came from a similar philosophy."

The Lacoochee native, who spent his first three NFL seasons with the Cowboys, was abruptly cut after five games last season. He signed with the Panthers and started in eight of nine games, leading the team in tackles twice.

Hambrick, 26, wasn't re-signed and visited Cleveland, St. Louis and Green Bay but wasn't signed. His agent, Butch Williams, said the long wait wasn't easy for a player who started 15 games two seasons ago.

"It was tremendously rough on Darren, but he kept the faith, and it came through for him," Williams said. "He visited (the Browns), but they just didn't have a spot for him, and they told us he was the first on their list if anything were to happen. They were true to that."

Hambrick arrived at Browns camp in Berea, Ohio, on Monday and will compete for a spot on Cleveland's 53-man roster. The Browns play Saturday night at home against Detroit, and Williams likes his client's chances at making the team.

"Given Darren's experience, he'll get in there and fight," Williams said. "I think he'll come out of there a starter. All he wanted was an opportunity, and he's got that now."

With Hambrick in Cleveland, Pasco County now has four players in the NFL.

Hambrick's brother, Troy, is a fullback in Dallas, and former Zephyrhills lineman Ryan Pickett is entering his second season with the Rams. Former River Ridge lineman Ryan Benjamin is in camp with the Patriots, trying to make the team as a long snapper.

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